There are only a handful of companies trading for more than $500 per share. Companies usually get that expensive when they grow rapidly and don’t split their stocks, or want to attract a higher-quality, more long-term focused investor.
Warren Buffett, who has never split Berkshire Hathaway A shares, believes that stock splits encourage a market price that is more often inconsistent with the intrinsic value of a business.
Using the All-in-One screener, we enter “Min Price - $500” and see that this group includes: Intuitive Surgery (ISRG), Apple Inc. (AAPL), Google Inc. Cl A (GOOG), Priceline.com (PCLN), NVR Inc. (NVR), Seaboard Corp. (SEB) and Berkshire Hathaway-A (BRK.A).
Intuitive Surgical Inc. (ISRG)
Intuitive Surgical is the maker of the da Vinci Surgical System, a breakthrough in robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery. It provides technology and procedural innovation across cardiac, thoracic, urology, gynecologic, colorectal, pediatric and general surgical disciplines and allows patients to recover in record time.
In the last year, this fast-growing company’s stock has surged 66% to $529.54. Its revenue over the last ten years has grown at a rate of 38%, and it grew 24.5% last year with 72.5% gross profit and 39.5% operating margin. The company expects fiscal 2012 revenue growth of 17-19%.
The da Vinci System is new technology first introduced to market in July 2000 after the US FDA approved it for laparoscopic surgery. Its new S model was released in April 2009. Already there are more than 1,933 systems installed in over 1,560 hospitals worldwide.
Apple Inc. (AAPL)
Apple Inc. is the maker of popular consumer products such as the Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Its stock has famously increased 569% over the past five years to hit a record of $600 per share last week. Apple has split its stock 2 for 1 three times in the past on June 15, 1987, June 21, 2000 and February 28, 2005. CEO Tim Cook said as recently as this morning that the company saw little reason to that a split would help the stock but if it was in the best interest of shareholder the company would have one. The company also announced this morning that it would initiate a $2.65 per share quarterly dividend and buy back up to $10 billion of its common stock.
In the last ten years, Apple’s annual growth rate for revenue was 34.5%, EBITDA 112.4% and book value 36.3%. Free cash flow increased 11% in the last five years and 58% in the last year. The rapidly growing company still has a relatively low P/E ratio of 16.68.
Google Inc. Cl A (GOOG)
Google Inc. is the search engine company founded in 1998 that has expanded to offer dozens of advertising and web services. Since going public in 2004, its stock has increased 485% to $633.98 per share on Monday. It has never had a stock split or paid a dividend.
Google has also grown rapidly. Its revenue per share over the last 10 years has increased at an annual rate of 52.3%, EBITDA at 51.9%, free cash flow at 64.8% and book value at 74.8%.Its P/E ratio is 20.
The company is also launching its 7-inch Nexus table in May to compete with Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kind Fire and is in the process of the biggest revamp of its Internet search formula in company history.
Google has an expressed long-term focus in its business, rather than quarter-to-quarter goals, as stated in its IPO letter which quotes Warren Buffett. The company’s higher stock price may help discourage frequent trading and encourage high-quality shareholders, as Buffett has mentioned in the past.
Priceline.com Inc. is an online travel booking company that debuted on the Nasdaq in 1999. In the last five years its stock increased 1,248%. Priceline.com’s stock price cratered to under $10 after the dot-com bubble and driven it up to almost $1,000. In 2003 it announced a 1 for 6 reverse stock split.
"This reverse stock split enhances our position by expanding investor interest, reducing transaction costs for trading our stock, making our results more comparable to peer companies with far fewer outstanding shares, and allowing priceline.com's earnings per share on a post-split basis to more precisely reflect the Company's operating results," said priceline.com President and CEO Jeffery H. Boyd.
On Monday it had climbed to $696.93 per share and its financial results have been strong and growing once again. Revenue in 2011 was $4.4 billion from $3 billion in 2010, earnings increased to $1.1 billion from $528 billion and free cash flow increased to $1.3 billion from $755 million. The company also has over $2.7 billion in cash, $164 in long-term liabilities and no debt.
The stock has become expensive in the last several years and has a P/E of 30.3.
NVR Inc. (NVR)
NVR Inc. consists of two operating segments: homebuilding and mortgage banking. The homebuilding unit makes homes under the trade names Ryan Homes, NVHomes and Fox Ridge Homes, and NVR Mortgage primarily focuses on serving NVR homebuyers.
NVR’s is older than most of the other companies on the over-$500 share-price list, having gone public in 1993. Since then its stock price has increased 7,219% to $741 per share on Monday. It has never split its stock.
Seaboard Corp. (SEB)
Seaboard is also an older company founded more than 90 years ago and has focused on grain and agriculturally derived products. In the last 10 years its stock has appreciated 543%, and on Monday one share costs $1,955. It has never split its stock.
Seaboard is still a growing company. In the last ten years it increased revenue per share at an average rate of 12.5%, EBITDA at 9.8%, and book value at 18.2%. It also has a low P/E of 6.8, its lowest since about 2007.
Berkshire Hathaway-A (BRK.A)
Berkshire Hathaway is the multinational conglomerate founded by Warren Buffett and is the eighth largest company in the world. They are the highest priced shares on the New York Stock Exchange, partially due to never splitting their stock or paying a dividend. Rather, they reinvest corporate earnings to continue growth.
In the last 10 years, Berkshire Hathaway stock has increased 67%. On Monday, one share of BRK.A cost $122,115.
Berkshire management has grown book value at an annual rate of 20.3% for the last 44 years. Growth has been continuing in recent history. In the last 10 years, revenue per share increased at a rate of 11.4%, EBITDA at 7.5% and free cash flow at 3.3%. Its P/E is 17.1.
These stocks are not necessarily expensive or not expensive based on how much one share costs but are subject to the same valuation as lower-priced companies. To create your own screener to find the exact stocks you are interested in, try GuruFocus’ do-it-all screener here.